Baptist churches are “complacent” about the need for church planting and have been lulled into a false sense of security by relatively healthy attendance figures, according to church planting consultant Stuart Murray-Williams.
Murray-Williams says in a web interview for Incarnate, a grass-roots church-planting network, that Baptist churches are the “least creative” in this area compared with other major denominations.
The problem lies not in the number of churches being planted – about one a month from 2005-09, with a further 37 last year, indicating an increase in activity. But “the way Baptists tend to plant is that a larger church with spare resources and spare people will plant a daughter church nearby,” Murray-Williams says.
“This is a perfectly good way of doing it, but it’s not strategic. It means we’re not planting churches where they’re most needed, but where we have the resources to do it.”
So, he says, “one of the transitions the Baptist movement needs to make is away from entrepreneurial church planting to a more strategic approach.”
He called for Baptist associations to take a leading role in identifying opportunities for church planting at a regional level, in line with commitments made at a recent Baptist Union of Great Britain (BUGB) church-planting consultation run by the BUGB’s mission department.
One of the 10 points arising from the consultation was “associations to lead in collaborative strategy and the (BUGB’s) National Resource to work in inspiring and equipping.”
Murray-Williams says that associations could act as “brokers” for church planting. “I suspect there are people all over the country who are itching to do something and have a pioneering spirit. But unless they happen to be in a church that wants to do something, they’re stymied.
“Regional associations could look across their area and ask where do we need to plant? And then, where are our resources? The association could act as a broker, enabling churches that have resources to connect with situations that need resources, so that church planting becomes more mission oriented rather than resource driven.”
He adds that there is a lack of awareness in Baptist churches about the need to plant new churches in new ways.
“This may be because the decline in Baptist churches and Baptist life is nothing like as acute, and there is no sense of urgency.
“It’s shortsighted. In 10 years that will change. The demographics indicate that there will be significant decline, and we will need to face the challenges other denominations are facing now.
“My hope is that we will address them now, when we have plenty of resources and plenty of people around to face that challenge, rather than waiting 10 years when we find ourselves in the same situation as several other denominations.”
Speaking to The Baptist Times, Murray-Williams warned that Baptists could be “lulled into a sense of security that’s entirely false” because they had not declined as other churches have.
“My concern is that while things are still relatively stable, now is the time to do something. We have to be honest about where we are and where we’re going.”
Rev. Ian Bunce, head of BUGB’s mission department, stressed the need for partnership between BUGB, associations and local churches.
“We’ve seen a large number of churches planted in recent years, some of which have become numerically very significant,” he said.
“A number of the more pioneering-type churches have not succeeded. We’re talking about how to support pioneers, but the mother/daughter-type church plant is the most successful.”
The interview can be viewed here.
This article appeared originally in The Baptist Times of Great Britain.